Home Affairs bribery scam

...Kapofi reads riot Act

By Marianne Nghidengwa


HOME Affairs and Immigration Minister Frans Kapofi has said that Namibia’s safety and security is being undermined by a syndicate operating within the ministry that is selling Namibian national identity documents to foreign nationals, mostly from Africa, Europe and Asia.

Confidente has it good authority that the syndicate has been selling the documents, including full-birth certificates, IDs and passports to foreigners for amounts between N$3 000 and N$75 000 over the years.

The syndicate mostly involves officials from the ministry, who have been serving their personal interests at the expense of the country’s security by accepting bribes in exchange for illegally issuing and selling such documents.

Confidente learnt this week that a majority of foreigners obtaining such documents by hook or crook use them to set up businesses that directly compete with locals. The bogus Namibian national identity documents in the hands of foreign nationals are also being used to set up companies whereby foreign nationals subsequently apply for state tenders under the guise that their companies are wholly Namibian-owned.

The documents are also used to enter countries that such foreign nationals would normally not be able to enter with their original passports, as well as to stay in Namibia permanently.

‘EASILY TEMPTED’

Choosing his words cautiously, Kapofi in an interview with Confidente on Tuesday likened the activities of the syndicate to selling off the country to foreigners. He said the operations of the syndicate point to a trend that is troubling for his ministry as officials are easily tempted to have more than what they receive as employees. “This trend is enough to keep us concerned and afraid.”

He warned that he would not tolerate the practice whereby some officials accept bribes to illegally issue Namibian national documents, saying that although the ulterior motives of foreigners to have such documents vary, oftentimes they remain unknown.

“Issuing national documents illegally is as good as selling the country to foreigners whose ulterior motives to get their hands on such documents by hook or crook vary. Our people are easily tempted because they want more than what they have and by doing that are selling our country to foreigners. It is a complete sell-out.”

Kapofi said his ministry is taking remedial actions to ensure officials are not tempted to solicit or accept bribes. He said it was because of such corrupt actions that the ministry established a security and risk management services division to safeguard national documents and ensure the security of staff members of the ministry, amongst other responsibilities.

“Action is being taken to root out this practice as it undermines the stability of the country. People must understand that Namibia is a good place to live in. That is why people are trying to acquire national documents at any cost to enjoy what the country has to offer to an extent of fraudulently obtaining these documents by bribing our officials. They buy flight tickets to come to Namibia just to marry, because there is someone paid to find somebody in need of cash to be a wife – mostly on paper.”

AMENDING THE LAW

The minister said amongst a host of actions taken to address the problem, amendments to the Marriage Act will soon be tabled to close loopholes used by foreigners to acquire Namibian citizenship.

“What we have picked up so far is that they want to remain in Namibia to conduct business that many Namibians are involved in. They are competing with Namibians and we need to protect jobs for Namibians. Our passport is also valuable as it gives them access to other countries which they would not with their original passports.”

The ministry is also looking at cases of theft identity as some culprits attempt to access other people’s identity documents to stay in the country or even to get items on credit.

In an investigation by Confidente two years ago, the former permanent secretary in the ministry, Ambassador Patrick Nandago said the selling of Namibian identity documents to foreign nationals was a major threat to national security.

“It’s a big security risk to the country as some of these foreign individuals that end up with our national identity documents posing as Namibians have no sense of patriotism to Namibia. They won’t hesitate to sell off the country. Some of these people end up committing crimes in other foreign countries while travelling on a Namibian passport and tarnish the image of Namibia. Those are some of the things our people are not aware of when they agree to assist foreigners to acquire Namibian identity documents,” he said.

“Everyone is trying at all cost to acquire Namibian identity documents. We have mostly people from West Africa, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo and to a certain extent Angolans, especially those from southern Angola, particularly because it’s so difficult to distinguish them from Namibians since they share the same language and culture, the same situation we also have with some Zambians,” Nandago said.

Nandago said at the time that the country’s National Population Registration System (NPRS) is not clean as quite a number of non-Namibians had managed to infiltrate it. The ministry’s current executive director Etienne Maritz said the ministry is busy cleaning up the system.

“It should be noted that the ministry is working tirelessly to detect and deal with such cases.  We have mechanisms in place to effectively deal with such matters.  Members of the public should report such cases to us knowing we will fully investigate and conclude such cases with the relevant authories.”